Chris Gray (24).
 Atlas vs. Chrome on Day Two of the PLL Championship Series at the St. James in Springfield, VA on Thursday, February 23, 2023.
Taylor McLaughlin/Premiere Lacrosse League

Why did Atlas trade Chris Gray? A rebuild and ‘generational’ draft, Mike Pressler says

By Lauren Merola | Mar 26, 2024

It will be written and rumored over and over again until the 2024 PLL College Draft class suits up this summer: This draft class is deep, quite possibly the deepest we’ve ever seen, and New York Atlas head coach and general manager Mike Pressler wants to throw as many darts at the “generational” draft board as early as possible, he said.

To do that, he traded the team’s All-Star attackman Chris Gray and a 2024 third-round pick (No. 18) to the Redwoods in exchange for the No. 5 selection this year. 

In a draft like this, Pressler knew to trade for a high selection, he had to part with an All-Star caliber player.

Gray was a stalwart on the Atlas offense as the top point producer in 2023, generating 37 points on 20 goals, two 2-pointers and 13 assists. In his first two pro seasons, the No. 2 pick in the 2022 draft out of North Carolina produced 78 points and was twice named an All-Star. He also holds the NCAA record for all-time points (401), a credit to his crafty stickwork and shot speed.

Gray’s departure, however, is the ultimate sign of a rebuild in New York. With the trade, the Atlas now hold picks Nos. 2, 5, 10 and 26, and there is room on offense for Pressler to draft whoever he has his eye on at Nos. 2 or 5.

Pressler, in his first full offseason involved in free agency and the draft, said he will likely target the best of many players available with the first two selections and pivot to positional needs at 10 and 26. He wants the first two picks to be “impact players immediately,” he said. Some of the top names in the upcoming draft are Duke attackman Brennan O’Neill, Virginia attackman Connor Shellenberger and Notre Dame attackman Pat Kavanagh. 

“There’s a couple guys at the top there and I think it’s very obvious to everybody who they are. There’s some generational players in this draft. More than one. There’s a couple, in my opinion,” Pressler said. “To have a shot at one of those guys at No. 2 is going to be huge for us. That five position, that top-5, you’re going to get a player very, very close to that No. 2 pick too depending which way we go.”

The 2024 PLL College Draft presented by Q-Collar airs May 7 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU and streams on ESPN+.